Worried dog with baby and gate

It is a mistake to underestimate a dog who has any kind of history of behaving aggressively.

Even a small dog can do a lot of harm. There are three general ways to prevent someone from getting hurt as a result of dog aggression.

Prevent your dog from being aggressive through the use of management tools

The first is to physically prevent your dog from being aggressive or  biting through the use of management tools, such as a dog basket muzzle (prevent biting), or a head halter such as the Gentle Leader  (most recommended and designed by a veterinary behaviorist – designed to prevent lunging and allows you to control the head), Sporn head halter, or Halti head halter (also designed to prevent lunging and offers you more control), as well as common sense items such as fences, crates, metal gates (not wooden), etc.  

Muzzles should be considered only if you are in a situation where you cannot absolutely avoid. However, muzzles do not prevent aggression, only biting. A lunging dog can still do a lot of harm even while wearing a muzzle.

See below for some links to where you can view or purchase some of these items.

Create safety by avoiding the circumstances that cause your dog to behave aggressively

The second way to keep people or dogs safe is to avoid the circumstances that cause your dog to be aggressive.  This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising just how many people don’t actively avoid those situation where there dog is likely to become aggressive.  

The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to do that.  You may have to make some lifestyle changes and walk your dog at different times, or discourage other people or other dog owners from approaching.  There are colour coded leashes you can buy from example, that may warn people to keep their distance. You may wish to put your dog with a food treat or puzzle behind closed doors while guests come to visit.

If your dog is aggressive in situations that seem inappropriate recognize that your dog may have some anxiety and may become aggressive in situations you haven’t accounted for.

Any situation that has the potential to become unpredictable should be avoided, especially if they involve strangers and children. Strangers will often not listen, and children even those that are well behaved can provoke even calm dogs.

Prevent your dog from being aggressive by treating the underlying causes

And finally, by treating the underlying cause of the aggression.  A dog that is less anxious and aggressive is going to be a safer dog.  Aggression is really just a symptom of an underlying cause.  While you can avoid the circumstances that cause aggression, or prevent your dog from biting with a muzzle, your dog will still be as aggressive in those situations where it happens.

Addressing the actual issues not only makes your dog a happier dog, but a safer one, too.  Many good trainers and veterinary behaviorist can help you treat your dog so that their behavior can improve.  In addition there are books and videos that can help you as well.

Which way should you choose and when?

We recommend that you avoid the circumstances that cause aggression in all cases, except for when you are working on a specific treatment plan that uses the right kind of methods that are designed to help the dog cope better.  This does not include ANY methods that include intimidating, scaring or hurting your dog! Properly treating a dog for dog aggression takes some commitment and time but it is not usually as hard as you might think.

In addition, your dog’s aggression problem will only get worse if he or she is left untreated and he or she is continually exposed to the things that set off their aggression.

However, whenever you are in a situation where you cannot control the environment, such as a veterinary office, you might want to choose from a variety of management tools that can help you keep everyone around you safe.  You might also want to use some of these tools when you can;t absolutely guarantee something unexpected won’t happen.  

For example, you may have decided to walk your dog early in the morning before all the other dog walkers, but one day someone decided to get up extra early because they had to get to work early.  In this case, it might be a great idea to condition your dog to wearing a Gentle Leader as it will offer you much more control in case your dog lunges.

Here are 20 tips that may help keep people safe around an aggressive dog.

  1. Learn to read signs your dog is communicating that aggression may occur.  There are a lot of resources online to help.  We include a signs of stress, anxiety and pending aggression in the The Dog Aggression System Every Dog Owner Needs e-book to teach you what to look for.  This knowledge can help prevent aggression before it even starts.
  2. Stop punishing your dog as not only can it make the aggression problem worse, your dog might bite you.
  3. Invest in a basket muzzles or head collars such as the Gentle Leader (most recommended), Sporn head halter, or Halti head halter. Learn when to use them and how to use them properly.
  4. Check your leashes, collars, etc. each time you use them and ensure they will not break.  Color coded leashes and harnesses may help keep others away from approaching your dog.
  5. Under no circumstances should your dog ever be given the opportunity to escape either from your home, car or room. If a door is going to be opened, put your dog on a leash secured to something, or in a crate or behind a metal gate (ideally you use a gate instead of a crate- and a well secured metal one at that), or another room before the door is open.
  6. Make sure your yard/garden fences and gates are well secured. If your dog escapes anyway and is aggressive, you will be held liable.  Make sure that there is no conceivable way your dog can get out, either by climbing, jumping, digging, etc. If your dog is destructive, be realistic about whether he or she can get through the fence
  7. Examine any free space your dog is allowed to run in, and make sure there is no danger of anyone or anything accidentally coming into this space. Don’t assume that is you are there you can ask people not to come in. Sometimes they will not listen or believe your dog is a threat.  Use locks on door in the house or gates outside and make sure they are child-proof. If you are at all unsure, use a leash and a basket muzzle if necessary.
  8. Tying a dog up outside and leaving them there can make aggression worse. Some of the most deadly and severe attacks have occurred by chained dogs, or dogs who have escaped restraints such as fences, pens, or chains, etc.  There are safer ways to exercise your dog.
  9. Learn what kinds of behaviors commonly people do that can elicit aggression, such as stepping over a dog, hugging a dog, pushing a dog, and more.  Again our e-book can help you there as well.
  10. If your dog is aggressive towards strangers or guests, ensure anyone coming to the house will not have to confront your dog however accidentally by using a crate, gate (again, should be a metal one) or putting your dog in another room with something to do.
  11. Don’t leave your dog in a crate or keep a basket muzzle on for too long.
  12. Never ever leave an infant or young child alone with any dog.
  13. Don’t allow children to hug the dog or put their faces close to the dog. Be aware that children sometimes cannot resist hugging or kissing.  Do the “Consent Test”: pat the dog for a few moments, stop and take a step back.  Does your dog approach for more?  If your dog just stands there, looks away, or walks away, they are only tolerating petting.  Know that a dog’s tolerance can wane, so you may need to do this test more than once.  Dogs who like petting make it very obvious they want more.  Teach children how to be dog detectives by teaching them how to do the Consent Test.  Here is a downloadable safety tip sheet for dogs and toddlers you might be interested in.
  14. Children have been known to open the doors of dog crates even when asked not to, so it is best to keep your dog in an area where children are not tempted.
  15. Children may gain unauthorized access to a fenced area where your dog is kept. Never leave your dog outside without supervision.
  16. Do not let your or children of relatives tease your dog or bark or growl.
  17. Protect your dog from strangers or neighbourhood children teasing it.
  18. If your dog has displayed aggression towards other animals, or people, a baby gate may not be a secure or safe way to keep your dog away from children. However baby gates can be helpful to manage space, and reduce tensions, or give time outs. However, if the dog has a fear of stranger or children its possible the dog will react aggressively towards an arm or face reaching in, or someone pressing up against the gate. Even toddlers may climb the gates or even learn how to open them. Exercise great caution when using them to keep a dog separated for his aggression towards others on the other side of the gate.
  19. If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs in the house, note that when the humans come home are often times when fights break out.  Best ignore all dogs when you come home until the excitement level has died down.
  20. Teach your dog alternative behaviors that are incompatible with aggression.  The Dog Aggression System Every Dog Owner Needs e-book teaches you how.

Where you can find some of the recommendations

Here are some links to categories on Amazon.  Full discloser: where we are an affiliate, which allows us to earn a small commission at no expense to you if you decide to buy.  There is obviously no pressure to buy and we only ever link when we think it will be of value to you.

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Using a muzzle for an aggressive dog

5 Methods to Avoid in Dog Training is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to That means we earn a small commission from the products listed here from Amazon should you decide to buy any of them at no expense to you. This helps us keep our site up and maintained so we can continue to help people help their dogs. We never recommend anything that we don’t believe will be of value to you.


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